Millennium Post

Rebels may play spoilsport for Cong

After the separation of Lingayat strongman Yedyyurappa from the ruling BJP in Karnataka, everybody is talking about Congress as the main benefactor in the assembly elections. Political experts, relying on Yeddyuruppa as well as the rising anti-incumbency factor, say that Congress has strong chances to regain the power from ruling BJP.

Karnataka is a rare state where the Congress’ fortunes are on the rise, but so is the internal squabbling in anticipation of a return to power after the assembly elections on 5 May.

With the fraught ticket distribution exercise now over, rebel candidates have cropped up in several constituencies, leaving the central leaders with their hands full trying to contain the growing intra-party troubles.

Veteran Congressmen have remarked that when rebel candidates abound it is a good sign for the party and there are more than a few seniors in the fray for the coveted job of the chief minister. The latter problem is managed by not declaring a CM candidate in advance. ‘The one recent example is in Punjab, where anyone with a grouse against Amarinder Singh was galvanised to get him defeated once he became the face of the campaign,’ said a senior Congress leader in the state.

The three main contenders for the top job in the southern state are S Siddaramaiah, the state unit chief G Parameshwara, and the union minister for labour Mallikarjun Kharge. These three men have exercised the most influence in deciding which all candidates get the 224 tickets to contest the assembly elections, a crucial factor which would help them make a strong bid for the job.

As per political pundits, the BJP is widely expected to be voted out of office, with the Congress being seen to be emerging as the single-largest party.

Out of a total of 2,150 applications received by the party, some rejections were accepted stoically, while others have become rebel candidates, or managed tickets from the Janata Dal (Secular) led by the former prime minister HD Deve Gowda. The problem of rebel figures has reached such a pitch that New Delhi was pushed into dispatching two members of the election committee, Luizinho Faleiro and Jitendra Singh, to pacify the district leaders. As a direct result of the intervention, a 12-member Congress panel was set up to curb dissidence and pacify the rebels.

‘These are typical problems; you can’t please everyone. We have rebels in 7-8 seats, and we will be making sure that either they stand down or we can neutralise their effect,’ Siddaramaiah said. ‘It is good to have many aspirants, and yes I am one too. But we have a process and that has to be followed.’

That may be so, but the egos of the seniors are clearly not assuaged. If the Congress office in Bangalore has been besieged by protestors, an uneasy silence prevails at former chief minister SM Krishna’s Sadashivanagar residence in the city. Krishna was dropped from the union cabinet in the last reshuffle and the expectation among his supporters was that he would be accommodated in an important role in the state. But it is apparent now that Krishna, who is closely identified with Bangalore’s rise as India’s technology capital, is no longer a force in the party. He is not part of the campaign committee and his supporters have been strongarmed out of tickets by actor MH Ambareesh.
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